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ADOPTING AN OLDER SIBLING GROUP
Joys, Challenges and Issues - continued

By Cathy and Chas Long


Common Issues of Older Children Adoption

Lying. Growing up in an orphanage with hundreds of other children, our children had to be very resourceful in getting what they felt they needed in order to survive. They all came home with the ability to lie in the most convincing way! They lied, because to tell the truth was to be vulnerable, causing them to get beaten by the caregivers in Russia. Learning to tell us the truth was a gradual process, as they had to learn to trust us and trust that we were not going to hurt them in any way.

Hoarding. Hoarding may be a life-long issue for the children. Most of the time, they did not have enough to eat in the orphanage and were hungry. I always kept fresh fruit on the table when they came home, along with nuts, granola bars, crackers, and peanut butter. Plus, we raised a large garden and they could pick, clean, and eat food whenever they wanted it. After they had been here a few months we learned that they also used to sneak and eat the cat food. They found it to be quite tasty and could not figure out why I didn't pour them some in bowls like I did for the cat. Because of being hungry for so long, they would take extra food and stash it somewhere in their room; mostly under their pillows or under the covers at the foot of their bed.

The hoarding did not stop with food. When I bought school supplies, they hoarded mechanical pencils, erasers, folders with cute pictures on them, and markers. I still keep the school supplies in a cabinet where they have free access to it all. The only rule is to tell me what they took, so if we run low I can purchase more. They keep their clothes… all of them. We have just in the last year been able to get them to let us have their out-grown clothes to replace with new items. They tell me they are saving the clothes to give to their children some day.

Discipline. We found early on that when you discipline the children, you don't spank them. They were beaten at their orphanage by mean caregivers. You also don't take away something they value because they were used to having things taken or stolen from them at the orphanage. Taking the girls makeup or CD Players away, then telling them they have to earn the right to get their things back, is a lot different than just removing their favorite possessions.

When our children get in trouble they have to do extra chores. In the beginning we would tell them what chore they had to complete as punishment. The chore may be pulling weeds in six rows of beans in the garden or scrubbing the front porch with a small bucket of hot soapy water and using an old tooth brush. Or they were given the task to take a pitch fork and turn the compost pile out by the garden. None of these are pleasant chores, but the children get the added bonus of spending time with one of us while they work. They get attention from mom or dad, and at the same time are being taught the value of tempering their actions.

We made up a list of acceptable behaviors and posted them in my work room, as they spend a lot of time talking to me, individually and as a group, while I'm working. My work room is not a public room in our house so they don't get embarrassed by visitors being able to see our list. We also made another list of all of the chores they could do for unacceptable behaviors. They get to pick a chore on the list, which gives them a certain amount of control over the situation.

Mothering By Older Sib. Emily felt that since she was the oldest then she had to mother her younger siblings and keep them in line. She was so afraid that if she didn't make them behave, that they would all be sent back to the orphanage. We had to sit her down and tell her that this was her time to be a teenager, not 'the mother' or even the 'caregiver'. Over time she let go of the role of authority figure. We had to have many conversations with her about letting herself enjoy life now, before she has the responsibility of her own family.

..........By Cathy and Chas Long

 

The materials for this course have been reprinted with permission from the book Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox Building Connections, edited by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae Copyright © 2006 EMK Press, all rights reserved. The complete 520 page book covering all aspects of becoming and being an adoptive family is available at Amazon.com.

 

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